In response to an earlier post about the proposal that the government should take some financial responsibility for mantaining our church buildings, Phil Rankin said... Well I began to respond in the comments but it got rather LONG so here it is:
The government funds many things which do not, overtly, serve the whole population. The Church of England is still the established church of this country and as Richard has commented many people believe that the goevernment does fund churches. People often argue against money being spent on seemingly "worthless" things the dome, opera, the arts in general... the church? Well I know there are always going to be people who question spending money on things that over more than the "necessary" (John 12.4-8) and many think honouring God by building and maintaining impressive buildings that draw people to them would be such an unecessary expense.
Our building is enjoyed by MANY people during the week as a place of prayer particularly because it is an old building. I don't think any one them would seek out the cinema, or a supermarket for that quiet prayer time. Our town is currently experiencing a major redevelopment and it made me realise how the church is one of the only buildings in the town centre that isn't there to persuade people to spend money and consume. I think that's something worth saving.
I would agree that there are some buildings which are modern which can have that numenous feel to them but I think it is far more often in the buildings left to us by faithful worshipping Christians over the centuries which resound the prayers of the years gone by.
Why should we abandon that heritage? Why should Christians only meet together in modern buildings?
I think our churches have more than mere HISTORICAL value. I enjoy visiting old houses, castles etc but there is something DIFFERENT about a church that has been a place of Christian worship and witness for centuries.
I'm not saying ALL old churches have such value. Some have passed their usefulness and are not as alive with the spirit as others but there are many which are and the feeling is SO tangible, when you walk through the door, that God is with you that sometimes little else is needed but unfortunately the cost of maintaining some of these places is high.
I know that there is a lot of emphasis in the church on fresh expressions and on young people and I wholeheartedly support it but never at the expense of our heritage or indeed of faithful but elderly members of our churches. Why should old things, people or places, have no value?
To answer one of your specific proposals, Phil, you'll find that the National Trust don't really "do churches" and that English Heritage (which IS funded by the government and by the lottery) would say there is no way they can take on all the historic churches in this country with their current resources. Even if they could, if our churches WERE mainatined by "historical bodies" it would be the end of that place as a place of worship. The priorities of preservation societies are solely about maintaining the building and not its use for worship. Personally I would far rather see our churches be made MORE relevant to our society and used as places of worship than turned into moth-balled old relics of a time when we valued the contribution of those who went before us in honouring God.